Fall is a great time of year for going on a nature hike to learn about trees. In this episode, trail guide Teresa D’Anna offers parents tips and tricks for teaching kids about trees while we’re out on the trail.
As you plan your hike, here are a some helpful hints. You can mix and match them up to suit you and your family’s interests and children’s ages:
Before You Go
Books to Read
- We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt – This is a fun read for kids K through 2nd grade. Use it to get kids excited about looking for leaves.
- The Giving Tree- 2nd through 4th grades. This moving parable is a great read for kids and can help them start thinking about all the things trees give us: shelter, oxygen, things in our home (table, chairs, dressers, cabinets) and at school (desks, paper, books and pencils). This is also a good story to help kids make connections between nature and the larger world around them.
- The Young Naturalist – grades 5 and up. This book offers kids more in depth learning about becoming a naturalist and looks at how trees are the base for the woodland community.
- Fandex Family Field Guide: Trees – all ages. This handy guide will help you and the kids identify trees on your hike.
Make Your Own Trail Mix
Here’s a way to squeeze in some math skills in a tasty way. Kids and parents can mix up their own special blend of trail mix. Place bowls or bags of dried fruits, coconut, chocolate chips, and nuts on the kitchen counter or table; then have everyone place their own ratio, proportion, or, fraction of ingredients into sandwich bags.
Wear Appropriate Shoes and Dress
Going on a nature walk can be as simple as walking around our neighborhood. To make it extra adventurous, kids will get a kick out of dressing up for their trek out. Wear sturdy shoes that are able to get muddy. Long pants are also ideal if you’re going out into the woods.
During Your Walk
Leaves of Three, Let Them Be
Remember the old rhyme, “leaves of three, let them be.” Poison Ivy and Poison Oak both have three leaves. Since it’s sometimes hard to identify what will make you itch, it’s best to avoid anything with three leaves altogether.
You can identify trees by their leaves, bark, seeds and branches. Ask the kids to look for examples of alternate and opposite branching.
ABC Trail Game
Look for items on the trail that start with each letter of the alphabet.
A – acorn
B – branches, bug
C – caterpillar
D – dogwood, deer tracks, dirt
After Your Walk
Ask kids about their favorite part.
Enjoy a snack.
Wax, press or make a rubbing with collected leaves.